One Million Plants and Animals Are On the Brink of Extinction, and You Can Probably Guess Who's to Blame

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We’ve known for a while that humans aren’t really doing much to stop the effects of climate change. Now, a new report from the United Nations is detailing just how much harm humans are doing to the planet, painting an incredibly bleak picture about the demise of ecosystems across the world.

Most major habitats have already seen plant and animal life fall by 20% or more, and more than 1 million animal and plant species are on the brink of extinction. Those losses could have devastating implications for the millions of humans who rely on them for food and water sources.

Humans are largely to blame for that demise, according to a summary of the 1,500-page report. More than 7 billion people worldwide are sharing resources and contributing to activities including overfishing, poaching, logging, mining, pollution and farming with harmful pesticides. All in all, human actions have “significantly altered” a whopping 75% of land environments and 66% of marine environments.

Coupled with the effects of climate change, the report concludes that humans are speeding extinction and changing the natural world at a pace “unprecedented in human history.”

What Does This Mean for Us?

Well, we hate to be the bearer of bad news here, but ... it definitely doesn’t mean anything good. There are roughly 8 million plant and animal species in the world, so 1 million of them facing extinction means that 1 in 8 plants or animals could be wiped off the planet.

That threatens gorgeous creatures like the Bengali tiger. But the real damage could happen to species less known for their beauty, like insects and algae. They may not have the striking stripes of a tiger, but they play vital roles in pollinating plants and, you know, providing us with oxygen.

Insects are already dying at an alarming rate, and this report states that extinction is only going to accelerate. The loss of those resources, combined with the loss of plant and animal species that people depend on for food, is already leaving millions of people hungry, or forcing them to leave their homes and move to already overcrowded areas.

They also may have to leave homes because the erosion of plants and animals along the coasts is making floods and hurricanes more likely and damaging, the report noted. Now, 100-300 million people are facing “increased risk” of those natural disasters.

What Can I Do?

Again, we don’t want to sound extra bleak. But the kind of action needed to stop the effects of both climate change and drastically improve conservation efforts needs to come from a collective of political and business leaders around the world.

Still, there are ways to make your voice heard to those corporations and leaders. Become informed on the topic, so you can talk about it with your friends and family members who might not be aware of the dire threat the planet – and its people – are facing. Contact your representatives to demand action on conservation efforts and support those who make climate policy a key part of their agenda. It may not feel like much, but the situation is too critical to do absolutely nothing.

About the Author

Rachelle Dragani is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn with extensive experience covering the latest innovation and development in the world of science. Her pieces on topics including DNA sequencing, tissue engineering and stem cell advances have been featured in publications including BioTechniques: the International Journal of Life Science Methods, Popular Mechanics, Futurism and Gizmodo.